Jeff Sanders' Blog

Return to aproundtable.org

Home > June 2012 > "Were the Founding Fathers Deists (Part 7)?

"Were the Founding Fathers Deists (Part 7)?
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

But what about Benjamin Franklin?  Now he was a confirmed, dyed in the wool, Deist, right?  Right.  And maybe not so right.  Yes, Benjamin Franklin was a skeptic.  He doubted the inpiration of the Bible and the deity of Christ all his life.  He considered himself to be a Deist.  . . .he believed that God created the world but is not really all that interested in His creation today.  Prayer is a waste of time, since God is not involved in the affairs of mankind.  But if Franklin were a Deist, then he was also a very inconsistent one.  

Ben Franklin certainly did not consider himself to be an enemy of Christianity.  He pretty much had a "live and let live" attitude.  One of his very good friends was the evangelist George Whitefield.  Franklin loved to hear Whitefield preach, and one time estimated the crowd listening to the evangelist to be about 30,000 people.  Franklin was there, listening to the message.  He often printed Whitefield's tracts and sermons and supported Whitefield's charitable work.  As much as he admired George Whitefield, and loved the social effects of the "Great Awakening" that was sweeping America, Ben Franklin never believed George Whitefield's message of redemption.

But Franklin did believe in prayer. . . .pretty inconsistent with Deism.  During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, during a rather "testy" part of the assembly, when it seemed like no one was getting along, james Madison recorded that Benjamin Franklin stood up and said this:

"In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark ot find political truth and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought or humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understanding?  In the very beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.  Our prayers, Sir, we heard and they were graciously answered.  All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor.  To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity.  And have we now forgotten that powerful friend?  Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance?  

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth that God governs in the affairs of men.  And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?  We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that, "except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it."  I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel:  We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages.  And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortuanate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest. 

I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate that Service."

Whoah.  So whaddaya think?  Some Deist, huh?  Even though Ben never came to a biblical faith, it looks pretty clear to me that he believed that God had spoken, that He had revealed Himself to man through the Bible, that He answers the prayers of men, and that no human government should be built without His aid.  Not bad for a Deist. . . . 

Saturday, June 02, 2012, 12:35 PM

Email to a Friend  |  Printer Friendly Page  |  Permalink | Comments

Bookmark and Share


Jeff Sanders' Bio

Home

Past Posts

"Trench Warfare"
07/18/14
"General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck"
07/13/14
"Gallipoli and the Making of Amphibious Warfare"
07/03/14
"World War I and the Beginning of WMDs"
06/25/14
"The Harlem Hellfighters"
06/12/14
"A D-Day Story: General Norman Cota"
06/05/14
"The Violence of the Bible and Jihad in the Quran"
05/31/14
"Islam, the Quran, and the Law of Abrogation" (Part 2)
05/26/14
"The Religion of Peace and the Law of Abrogation"
05/17/14
Archive

July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009


Search this blog:



Copyright 2008 American Policy Roundtable